Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jugendstil in Ålesund

Yes, that's a large photo of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II in the window of a building in Ålesund, Norway. And nearby is Keiser Wilhelms gate (Emperor William's Lane), a street named after the man. Why would that be?

It seems that Ålesund in the early 20th century was a ramshackle small city comprised of mostly wooden buildings. Then, on 23 January 1904, it was mostly destroyed in a great fire.

Following that disaster, much of Europe pitched in to help rebuild the city. And the most important booster of the project was the Kaiser, whose efforts are still greatly appreciated, as this Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article notes. Wilhelm had an imperial yacht and loved to take summer cruises, often in the Norwegian fjord country where he had become fond of Ålesund. Besides money and materials, Germany sent in architects to help rebuild the city in a more fire-resistant manner.

In 1904 the fashionable architectural style in Europe was Art Nouveau or Jugendstil, as it was called in Germany. Architectural Art Nouveau is largely a matter of ornamentation that varied in its degree of complexity or elaboration from place to place. At the elaborate extreme is Latvian Art Nouveau as seen in certain neighborhoods in Riga. German Jugendstil, on the other hand, was largely limited to small amounts of decoration, though certain details of building form were also involved. That said, it isn't surprising that Ålesund's Jugendstil architecture by German and Norwegian architects followed the German pattern.

Below are more photos of Ålesund I took on a dreary July morning before stores had opened.


The gray-brown building at the left is a former pharmacy that's now a museum or center devoted to Ålesund Jugendstil.

A mix of classical and Jugendstil.

In this ensemble we see bits of ornamentation, but mostly Jugendstil building form details such as those curved windows.

Back to where I started. Kaiser Wilhelm's photo is at the right-hand side of this image (you can glimpse his head).

1 comment:

Robert R. said...

I visited Alesund last year,it was a delightful city to walk through.